tv Attorney General Nominee Jeff Sessions Testifies at Confirmation Hearing CSPAN January 15, 2017 10:34am-12:34pm EST
on the committee for the responsible federal budget talks about the process and what to expect from the trump administration. >> this issue is so hard for politicians to vote the right and doingg for things less or not paying for things and doing more. we borrow hundreds of millions of dollars a year. that makes sense when you are in a recession. not be borrowing as much as we are now. we have to make these hard changes and they involve straight up raising taxes, cutting benefits or reform entitlements. those are things every pollster tells the politicians to stay away from. >> on tuesday, the senate judiciary committee began a two-day confirmation hearing for alabama senator jeff sessions. been nominated to become the next attorney general of the united states. this portion from day one is two hours.
mr. sessions: mr. chairman, if i might, friends, i would like to thank richard shelby, my colleague and senators susan colleague -- susan collins for their introduction. it was moving and touching for me. it's hard to believe the three of us have served together in this body for almost 20 years. when i arrived in the senate in 1997, i probably would not have anticipated becoming so close to the colleagues from maine. >> [indiscernible]
mr. sessions: it took a while to understand our accents but once we did, we never had a problem. he has been a steady fast friend and we have been a good team representing the interests of alabama and the united states. i want to thank president-elect donald trump for the confidence and trust he has shown in me by nominating me to serve as attorney general of the united states. i feel the weight of an honor traders and i aspire to. if i am confirmed, i will commit to do and to the american people to be worth the of the office and special trust that comes with it. i come before you today as a colleague who has worked with you for years, some of you 20 years. you know who i am, you know what i believe in, you know i am a man of my words and can be trusted to do what i say i will
do. you know i revere the constitution and i'm committed to the rule of law and i believe in fairness and impartiality and equal justice under law. over the years, you heard me say many times that i love the department of justice. the office of attorney general of the united states is not a normal political office. anyone who holds it must have total fidelity to the laws and the constitution of the united states. must be committed to following the law. he or she must be willing to tell the president or other top if he or they overreach. a merehe cannot be rubberstamped. he or she must set the example for the employees of the department to do the right thing and ensure when they do the right thing, they know the attorney general will back them up, the matter what politician
might call or powerful special-interest, influential country leader or friend might try to intervene. the message must be clear. everyone is expected to do their duty. that is the way i was expected to perform as the assistant united states attorney. way i trained my assistants when i became united states attorney. when -- if confirmed, that is the way i will lead the department of justice. my over 14 years in the department of justice, i tried cases of every kind, drug trafficking, a large international smuggling cases, many firearms cases, other violent crimes, a series of public corruption cases of significance, financial wrongdoing and environmental violations. our office supported historic civil rights cases, protecting
the people of this country from is a and violent crime high calling of the men and women of the department of justice. today, i'm afraid it has become more important than ever. since the early 1980's, good policing and prosecution have been a strong force in reducing crime and making our communities safer. drug use and murders are half what they were in 1980 when i became a united states attorney. at thery concerned recent jump in violent crime and murder rates are not anomalies at the beginning of a dangerous trend that could reverse those hard-won gains that have made america a safer and more prosperous place. the latest fbi statistics show all crime increased nearly 4% from 2014 through 2015, the since 1991 with
murders increasing nearly 11%, the single largest increase since 1971. in 2016, there are 4368 shooting victims in chicago. in baltimore, homicides reached the second highest for capital rate ever. the country is also in the throes of a heroin epidemic with overdosed deaths tripling between 2010 and 2014. nearly 50,000 people a year died from drug overdose. flowedle, illegal drugs across our southern border into every city and town in the bringing violence, addiction and misery. we must not lose perspective when discussing these statistics and must always remember these crimes are being committed against real people, real victims. it is important they are kept in the forefront of our minds in these conversations and to ensure their rights are
so these trends cannot continue. it is a fundamental civil right to be safe in your home and community. if i am confirmed, we will systematically prosecute criminals who use guns in committing crimes. as the united hates attorney, my office was a national leader in gun prosecutions nearly every year. we will partner with state and local law enforcement to take down the major drug trafficking cartels and dismantle criminal gangs. we will prosecute those who repeatedly violate our borders. it will be my priority to confront these crimes vigorously, effectively, and immediately. 90% of all law enforcement offices are not federal but state and local. on the frontones lines and they are better educated, trained and equipped than ever before. toy are the ones we rely on keep our neighborhoods, playgrounds and schools safe.
in the last several years, law enforcement as a whole has been unfairly maligned and blamed for the unacceptable actions for a few of their bad actors. their political leadership has abandoned them and they have become targets. morale has suffered and while under intense public criticism, the number of police officers killed in the line of duty increased by 10% over 2015. firearm deaths of police officers are up 68%. this is a wake-up call. if we are to be more effective in dealing with rising crime, we have to deal with and work more effectively with local law enforcement, asking them to lead the way. to do that, they must know they are supported and if i am confirmed as attorney general, they can be assured they will
have my support in their lawful duties. as i have discussed with you in our meetings prior to this hearing, the government has a role to play in this as well and we must use the research and expertise and training that has been developed by the department of justice to help these agencies in developing the most effective law enforcement methods to reduce crime. we must strengthen the partnership between federal and local officers to enhance a comment and unified effort to reverse the rising crime trends. i did this as united states attorney and worked directly and continuously with local and .tate law enforcement officials if confirmed, this will be one of my priority objectives. are many things the department can do to strengthen relationships with their own
communities where policies like community-based policing have absolutely been proven to work. i am committed to this effort and ensuring the department of justice is a unifying force for improving relations between the police in this country and the communities they serve. this is particularly important in our minority communities. , positivestake relations and great theunications between people and their police are essential for any good police department. when police fail in their duties, they must be held accountable. i have done these things as united states attorney. i've worked to advance these kind of policies. in recent years, our law enforcement officers have been called upon to protect our country from the rising threat of terrorism that has reached our shores. , protectingirmed
the people from the scourge of radical islamic terrorism will continue to be a radical priority. we will continue to respond to threats using all lawful means to keep our country safe. order ships will be vital to achieving much more effect of enforcement against cyber threats and the department of justice has a lead role to play in that essential effort. must honestly assess our vulnerabilities and have a clear plan for defense as well as offense as well as cyber security. the department of justice must never falter and subjective to protect the civil rights of every american. particularly those who are most vulnerable. a special priority for me will be the aggressive enforcement of or without hindrance discrimination and hindering the electoral process which has been
a hindrance to the department of justice. must improve its ability to protect the united states treasury from fraud, waste, and abuse. is a federal responsibility. we cannot afford to lose a single dollar to corruption and you can be sure if i am confirmed, i will make it a hype priority of the department to root out and prosecute fraud in federal programs and recover moneys lost due to fraud and false names as well as contracting fraud and issues of that kind. the justice department mustering ever faithful that our government is not what -- is one of laws. it is my unyielding commitment to you if confirmed to see that the laws are enforced faithfully, effectively, and impartially. must holdey general
everyone, no matter how powerful accountable. no one is above the law and no many thingsl be protection. no powerful special interest will power this department. personally thess fabulous men and women who work in the department of justice. int includes personnel justice and the must -- the much larger number that faithfully fill their responsibilities every day throughout the nation. i united states attorney, work with them constantly and i know them in the culture of their agencies. the federal investigative agencies represent the finest collection of law enforcement officers in the world. andow there integrity professionalism and i pledge to them a unity of effort that is unmatched. we can and will reach the highest standards and highest results.
it would be the greatest honor for me to lead these fine public servants. to my colleagues, i appreciate the time you have taken to meet with -- meet with me one-on-one. theon't always have opportunity to sit down and discuss matters face to face. i understand and respect the conviction you bring to your duties. even though we may not always be alwaysement, you have been understanding and respectful of my positions and i have yours. in our meetings over the past week, you had the opportunity to and you'reme relating to the department from prosecuting crimes on tribal lands, a matter that was greater than i understood, the scourge of human trafficking and child exploitation to concerns about the in grant programs and
protection of american civil liberties and the scourge of heroin overdose deaths just to name a few things. i learned a lot during those meetings, particularly with my meeting with senator whitehouse when we discussed cyber security. he is a great deal of knowledge there and i'm glad you and senator graham have taken the lead on this important issue. i think we can work together and make some progress. senator graham, congratulations on your football victory last night. i want to assure all my colleagues i had given your concerns earnest reflection and will bear them in mind as we move forward. i will sincerely endeavor to keep these lines of communication open and hope we can continue our collegiality and friendships. confirmed, i commit to you the department of justice congressesponsive to and we will work with you on
your priorities and provide you with guidance and views where appropriate. the department will respect your constitutional duties, your oversight role and the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. let me address other issues straight on. i was accused in 1986 of failing to protect the voting rights of african-americans in a voter fraud case and of condemning civil rights advocates and organizations and even harboring, amazingly, sympathies for the kkk. these are dam the bully. his. the voter fraud case my office prosecuted was in response to pleas from african-american incumbent officials who claimed the absentee ballot process involved a situation in which ,lex cast for them were stolen
altered, and test for their opponent. the prosecution sought to protect the integrity of the ballot, not to block voting. it was a voting rights case. as to the kkk, i invited civil rights attorneys to help solve a into the investigation unconscionable, her in this death of a young african-american coming home from a 7-eleven store at night andly because he was black actively backed the attorneys throughout the case and they broke that case. that effort led to a guilty plea and a life sentence in court and his testimony against the other defendants, there was no federal death healthy at the time. i felt this death penalty was appropriate in this case and i pushed to have it tried in state court, which was done. that defendant was sentenced to
years later, as alabama's attorney general, my staff are dissipated in the defense of that verdict and a few months after, i became the united states senator. that murdering klansman was indeed executed. i am poor the clan and its hate all ideology. the southern poverty law center that led to the successful collapse of the clan at least in alabama, the seizure of their holding, at least for that time. as civil rights attorneys have testified before the committee, i have supported fully their historic cases that the justice department filed to advance civil rights and i support it, to desegregate schools, abolish at-large elections for cities, county commissions and school boards. these at-large elections were
mechanisms used to block african-american candidates from being able to be elected to boards and commissions. a deliberate part of a systemic plan to reduce the ability of african-americans to have influence in the election and governing process. i never declared the naacp was an american or that a civil rights attorney was a disgrace to his race. there is nothing i am more proud of than my 14 years of service in the department of justice. i love and venerate that great institution. i hold dear its highest ideals. if god gives me the ability, i will work every day to be worthy of the demands of this august office. sure that absolutely i understand the immense responsibility i would have. i am not naive. i know the threat our rising
crime and addiction rate poses to the health and safety of our country. i know the threat of terrorism. i deeply understand the history of civil rights in our country and the horrendous impact relentless and systemic dissemination and the denial of voting rights has had on our african-american brothers and sisters. i have witnessed it. we must continue to move forward and never back. i understand the demand for ourice and fairness made by lgbt community. i will ensure the statutes protecting their civil rights and safety are fully enforced. i understand the lifelong scars of war and by women who are the victims of assault and abuse. if i am so fortunate to be confirmed as your attorney general, you can know i understand the absolute
necessity and all my actions the bounds ofn the constitution and the laws of the united states. while all humans must recognize the limits of their abilities and i certainly do, i am ready for this job. we will do it right. your input will be valued. local law enforcement will be our partners. and federal government i've had in law enforcement will be respected. i have always loved the law. it's the very foundation of this country. it is the exceptional foundation of america. i have an abiding commitment to pursuing and achieving justice and a record of doing that. if confirmed, i would give all my efforts to this cause. i only ask you do your duty as god gives you the ability to see
that duty as you are charged by the constitution. thank you for your courtesy. i look forward to hearing more for a mere hearing. toator grassley: i want thank you for your service in the senate and more importantly for taking on this responsibility. you have been nominated for an thank you for your opening statement. i'm glad you were able to mention the name of a lot of your family. i would ask the staff to put in the names of the people who are accompanying you today if they are willing to give us that name it is a proud day for you, your wife's son and daughter and their families. i welcome all of you very much. now to the questioning. 10 minutes and senator feinstein, we will go back and forth as we usually do. the attorney general of the
united states is the nation's chief law enforcement officer. he or she is not the president's he the nor is president's wing man as attorney general holder described himself. or she has an independent obligation to the constitution and to the american people. i know you care deeply about this foundational principle, sans going to ask you a question. i've heard you ask other nominees for attorney general. occasionally, you will be called the to offer an opinion to president who appointed you. you will have to tell him yes or no. , presidents don't like to be told no. so i would like to know will you be able to stand up and say no to the president of the united states if, if you -- if in your
judgment to and duty demands it? the reason i ask that is because i know you worked very hard for the president-elect. mr. sessions: mr. chairman, i understand the importance of your question and i understand the responsibility of the attorney general and i will do so. help the president do things he might desire in a lawful way and have to be able to say no both for the country, the legal system and for the president to avoid situations that are not acceptable. iunderstand that duty observed it through my duties, here and i will fulfill that responsibility. think illeagues don't am taking invented to the time, somebody did not start the clock -- taking advantage of the time, somebody did not start the clock. the light is not working. said, but justu
emphasize, let me follow up. if you disagree with the president's chosen course of so, andand you told him he intends to pursue that course of action anyway, what are your options at that point? sessions: and attorney general should first work with the president and hopefully have the confidence of the president to avoid a situation that would be unacceptable. and attorneyif general is asked to do something that is play in the unlawful, he cannot participate in that, and that person would have to resign, before agreeing to execute a policy that the attorney general believes would be unlawful or unconstitutional. there are areas that are rightly clear and right, areas that might be gray and their areas
that are unacceptable, and a good attorney general needs to know where those lines are, to help the president where possible and resist unacceptable actions. senator grassley: you serve in this department for 14 years, you served as your state's attorney general and you served on this committee for a long time, and we have oversight over the department that you might have. you have done that all for 20 years. share ofd my disagreements over the last few years. some of those were purely policy disagreements, but some of those issues were especially troubling to me, in that the department failed to perform fundamental functions to enforce the law. day in and general, day out, you will be faced with difficult and sometimes thorny legal problems.
what will your approach being, in ensuring that the department enforces the law and more broadly, what is your vision for the department? senator sessions: the ultimate responsibility of the department of justice is to execute the laws passed by this congress and to follow the constitution in that process and carry its principles out. you can be sure i understand that. we may have disagreements about whether a law should be passed, but once passed, i will do my best to ensure it is properly and fairly enforced. i believe we have a crime problem. i won't go in time to describe what we can do to address that. there are other challenges this country faces. recognize pleased to
the influence of the legislative branch and welcome insights you might have. senator grassley: that is an important issue with me, let me emphasize in saying is it fair to say that regardless of what your position may have been as a legislator, your approach as attorney general will be to enforce the law, regardless of policy differences? sessions: absolutely. i have anynk hesitations or lack of ability to separate the roles i have had that go from the legislative branch to the executive branch, it is a transfer of not only a position, but of the way you approach issues. executive an function, and enforcement function of the law of this great legislative body. grassley: during the
course of the presidential campaign, you made a number of statements about the investigation into former secretary of state hillary clinton relating to her handling of sensitive emails and regarding certain actions of the clinton foundation. you were not alone in that criticism. i was certainly critical in the same way, as were millions of americans. now you have been nominated to serve as attorney general. in light of those comments that you made, some have expressed concern about whether you can approach the clinton matter impartially in both fact and appearance. how do you plan to address those concerns? senator sessions: mr. chairman, it was a highly contentious campaign. i, like a lot of people, made comments about the issues in that campaign with regard to secretary clinton and some of the comments i made i do believe that that could place my
objectivity in question. i have given that thought. i believe the proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions involving those kind of investigations that involve secretary clinton that were raised during the campaign. or otherwise connected to it. senator grassley: i think that's -- let me emphasize then with a follow-up question. to be very clear you intend to recuse yourself from both the clinton email investigation and any matters involving the clinton foundation if there are any? senator sessions: yes. senator grassley: let me follow up again because it's important. when you say you'll recuse, you mean that you'll actually recuse and the decision will therefore fall to, i assume, a deputy attorney general. i ask because after attorney
general lynch met with president clinton in phoenix, she said she would, quote-unquote, defer to the f.b.i. but she never officially recused. senator sessions: no, she did not officially recuse. and there is a procedure for that which i would follow. and i believe that would be the best approach for the country because we can never have a political dispute turn into a criminal dispute. that's not -- in any way that would suggest anything other than absolute objectivity. this country does not punish its political enemies, but this country ensures that no one is above the law. senator grassley: you touched on something that's very dear to me and that's working with having executive branch people work with members of congress. you also mentioned working with us on oversight. since that very important for
me, let me say that the executive branch has always been one of my top priorities regardless of who occupies the white house. i have often said i'm an equal opportunity overseer. now over the years i have asked quite a few executive nominees, both republican and democrat, to make commitments to respond to oversight. you said you would, but in my experience nominees are usually pretty receptive to oversight requests during these type of hearings but have after they have been confirmed oversight doesn't seem to be a high priority for them. as i told you when we met privately in my office, sometimes i think nominees should go ahead and be a little more straightforward during their hearings. and instead of saying yes to everything we ask about oversight, it would be more honest to say maybe. when asked if they would respond to our questions. now because you have served on
this committee and understand the importance of oversight, i'm hoping you'll be different than your predecessors in response to oversight questions. so i have with me that i'll give to one of your staff a whole bunch of letters that haven't been answered yet. one of them even you signed with me to the department of justice. and i hope that you would go to great lengths to see that these get answered so the next may or june if i'm contacting you that they haven't been answered then the trump administration might be blamed for it and these are all a result of not getting answers from the last administration. so i hope you'll help me get answers to these, at least the one you helped me write. senator sessions: mr. chairman, you are correct that this committee has oversight, but it goes beyond that. this committee and the congress funds the various branches of
the executive branch. the various departments. and you have every right before you fund our agencies and departments to get responsive answers to questions that are proper. sometimes congress has asked for issues maybe there is a legitimate reason to object to, but they should object and state why. mr. chairman, i will be responsive to your request and i understand your history. perhaps more than anyone in this congress, to advance the idea that -- on the executive branch needs to be held accountable. and i salute you for it. senator grassley: if senator feinstein contacts you, don't use this excuse so many people use, if you aren't chairman of the committee you don't have to answer the question. i want her questions answered just like you'd answer mine. senator sessions: i understand that. senator feinstein: thank you. that was above and beyond the call. thank you, mr. chairman.
i would like to begin with a second largest criminal industry in this country, which is now, believe it or not, by revenues produced, human sex trafficking. trafficking victims are among the most vulnerable in our society. the average age is 12 to 14. they are beaten, raped, abused. at times handcuffed at night so they can't escape, often moved place to place, forced to have sex with multiple men each time. the justice for victims trafficking act, signed into law in 2015, create a domestic trafficking victims services to be administered by the department of justice. part of that fund contains up to
$30 million for health care or medical items or services to trafficking victims. these funds are subject to the hyde amendment which says no appropriated funding can be used to pay for abortion. however, the hyde amendment does not apply in cases of rape. on the senate floor, senator cornyn discussed the hyde language and said, and i quote, everyone knows the hyde amendment language contains an exception for rape and health of the mother. so under this act these limitations on spending wouldn't have anything to do with the services available to help those victims of human trafficking. in short, senator cornyn asserted that the hyde amendment, which contains an exception for rape, would not affect the availability of services for these victims. the domestic trafficking victims fund will be under the jurisdiction of the department of justice. here's the question. will you ensure that these grant
funds are not denied to service providers who will assist victims of human trafficking in obtaining comprehensive services they need, including abortion, if that is what is required for a young girl impregnated during this horrific abuse? senator sessions: senator feinstein, i appreciate that question. and i do appreciate the fact that our country has been talking and i believe taking action for a number of years to deal with sex trafficking more effectively. i don't know that we have reached the level of actual effectiveness we need to, but congress and you and others have been very, very outspoken about this and there are all kinds of great citizen groups that have focused on t it's a very important issue. i was not aware of how the language for this grant program has been established. i do appreciate your concerns on
it. it's a matter that i have not thought through, but ultimately it's a matter for this united states congress not so much a matter for the attorney general. we need to put our money out to assist in this activity according to the rules established by the congress. senator feinstein: i'm delighted that senator cornyn is here. i quoted him directly from the floor that the hyde amendment would not prevent the distribution of these funds. and so i hope you would agree to that and that's certainly most important to me because congress has spoken. and the bill is law. senator sessions: i understand that. and we would follow the law. senator feinstein: ok. as you know, the constitution also protects a woman's right to have access to health care and determine whether to terminate her pregnancy in consultation with her family and doctor. i'm old enough to remember what it was like before when i was a student at stanford and
thereafter. in the early 1960's, i actually sentenced women in california convicted of felony abortion to state prison for a maximum sentences of up to 10 years, and they still went back to it because the need was so great, so was the morbidity and so was the mortality. this right passed now by the constitution as recognized in roe, planned parenthood v. casey, and the supreme court's recent decision in whole women's health in fact the court recently struck down onerous regulations imposed by texas on women's health clinics. you have referred to roe v. wade as, quote, one of the worst colossally erroneous supreme court decisions of all time, end quote. is that still your view? senator sessions: it is. i believe it is -- it violated
the constitution and really attempted to set policy and not follow law. it is the law of the land. it has been so established and settled for quite a long time. and it deserves respect. i would respect it and follow it. senator feinstein: on november 14, 2016, appearing on the tv show "60 minutes" the president-elect said the issue of same-sex marriage was, quote, already settled. it's law. it was settled in the supreme court. it's done. and i'm fine with that. do you agree that the issue of same-sex marriage is settled law? senator sessions: the supreme court has ruled on that. the dissent dissented vigorously but it was 5-4, and five justices on the supreme court, a majority of the court, has established the definition of marriage for the entire united states of america, and i will follow that decision. senator feinstein: here's another question.
if you believe same-sex marriage is settled law but a woman's right to choose is not, what is the difference? senator sessions: i haven't said that the woman's right to choose or the roe vs. wade and its progeny is not the law of the land or not clear today. so i would follow that law. senator feinstein: i would like to ask one question based on the letter that we received for 1,400 law professors, 49 states, only alaska is left out. i inquired why, because alaska doesn't have a law school. it's a pretty comprehensive list representing law professors in every state that has it, law school. what they said, and this is what i want you to respond to, nothing in senator sessions' public -- public life, since
1986, has convinced us that he is a different man than the 39-year-old attorney who was deemed too racially insensitive to be a federal district court judge. all of us believe it's unacceptable for someone with senator sessions' record to lead the department of justice. so i want your response to this and answer the question, how do you intend to put behind you what are strongly felt personal views, take off the political hat, and be an attorney general who fairly enforces the law and the constitution for all? senator sessions: senator feinstein, i would direct their attention to, first, to the remarks of senator specter who in his entire career said he made one vote that he would regret and that was the vote against me. he indicated he thought that was an egalitarian, a person who treated people equally and respected people equally.
this caricature of me in 1986 was not correct. i have become united states attorney. i supported as the civil rights attorney said, major civil rights cases in my district. that integrated schools. that prosecuted the klan. that ended single member districts that denied african-americans the right to hold office. i did everything i was required to do. and the complaints about the voter fraud case and complaints about the klan case that i vigorously prosecuted and supported are false. and i do hope this hearing today will show that i conducted myself honorably and properly at that time and that i am the same person, perhaps wiser and maybe a little better, i hope so, today than i was then, but i did not harbor the kind of animosities and race-based ideas
i was accused of. i did not. senator feinstein: thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. senator grassley: senator hatch and then senator leahy. senator hatch: thank you, mr. chairman. senator grassley: before your time starts. i'd like to mention that the committee received a letter in support of senator sessions' nomination from attorneys general ashcroft, barr, gonzalez, meese, and mccasey, as well as a number of former deputy attorney generals. they wrote in part as follows, a sentence from that letter, based on our collective and extensive experience, we also know him to be a person unwavering dedication to the mission of the department, to assure that our country is governed by a fair and evenhanded rule of law. i ask consent to put that letter in the record. senator hatch. senator hatch: thank you, mr. chairman. i first want to thank you for
your fair approach to this first hearing of the 115th congress. you have scheduled and structured this hearing in line with this committee's precedents. you are including more witnesses in this hearing than the past average for attorney general nominees. senator sessions has provided this committee with more than 150,000 pages of material relevant to his nomination. that is 100 times what attorney general rich provided and that is almost 30 times what attorney general holder provided. this material comes from someone we know, someone that many of us served with in the senate and on this very committee. yet, some on the far left will stop at nothing to stop this nomination. they oppose this nomination precisely because senator sessions will not politicize the justice department or use its
resources to further a political agenda. they make up one thing after another to create a caricature that bears no resemblance to the nominee which is before us today. i have been on this committee for a long time, and i have seen these dirty tactics before and they are not going to work this time. senator sessions, it sounds a little strange to say this but, welcome to the senate, the senate judiciary committee. i'm sure there will be some need to address false claims and fabricated charges during this hearing. believe it or not, however, i have questions about issues and policies that you will be addressing when you become attorney general. the first one is one i have raised with every incoming attorney general nominee for nearly 25 years, and it concerns enforcement of federal laws prohibiting obscenity. in the 108th congress you introduced senate concurrent resolution 77, expressing the
sense of the congress that federal obscenity laws should be vigorously enforced throughout the united states. it please the senate -- excuse me -- it passed the senate unanimously. in fact, it's the only resolution on this subject ever passed by either the senate or the house. now, senator sessions, with your permission, i want to share with you that resolution adopted last year by the entire legislature outlining why pornography should be viewed as a public health problem as well as some of the latest research into the harms of obscenity. is it still your view that federal laws prohibiting adult obscenity should be vigorously enhanced? senator sessions: mr. chairman, those laws are clear and they are being prosecuted today and should be continued to be effectively and vigorously prosecuted in the cases that are appropriate. senator hatch: and making it a
priority for the justice department, would you consider re-establishing a specific unit dedicated to prosecuting this category of crime? senator sessions: that unit has been disbanded. i'm not sure i knew that. it was part of the department of justice for a long time, and i would consider that. senator hatch: ok. for several years now, senator coons and representative tom marino and susan delbene and i have raised the importance of self guarding data privacy on an international scale. from unauthorized government access. that is why we continue to push forward the international communications privacy act, which establishes a legal standard for accessing extra territorial communications. the need for a legislative solution was reinforced in july when the u.s. court of appeals for the second circuit held in microsoft v. the united states that current law does not authorize u.s. law enforcement
officials to access electronic communications stored outside the united states. if confirmed, will you and your staff work with us to strike the needed balance to strengthen privacy and promote trust in the united states technologies worldwide while enabling law. -- enabling law enforcement to fulfill its important public safety mission? senator sessions: that will be a high responsibility, senator. i know you worked hard on that for a number of years, as have other members of this committee, senator coons and others, so working that out, understanding the new technology but the great principles of the right to privacy, the ability of individuals to protect data that they believe is private and should be protected, all of those are great issues in this new technological world we're in, and i would be pleased to work with you on that and i do not have firm and fast opinions on the subject. senator hatch: well, thank you
so much. i'd like to turn now to rapid d.n.a. technology that will allow law enforcement officials to speedyly process d.n.a. samples in 90 minutes or less. f.b.i. director comey told this committee that rapid d.n.a. would help law enforcement, quote, change the world in a very, very exciting way, unquote. legislation authorizing law enforcement to use this technology, which you co-sponsored, passed the senate last year. i was disappointed, however, that it got tied up with the criminal justice reform efforts in the house. now, i have two questions. first, do you agree with director -- f.b.i. director comey and with law enforcement leaders across the country that rapid d.n.a. legislation is important and will help law enforcement to do their jobs better and faster? and secondly, do you agree with me that we should work to pass this legislation sooner rather than later and should avoid
tying it to efforts on other legislative issues whose path forward is unclear? senator sessions: mr. chairman, rapid d.n.a. analysis is a hugely important issue for the whole american criminal justice system. it presents tremendous opportunities to solve crimes in an effective way and can be produced justice because it is the kind of thing you can't fake or mislead. so i am very strongly in favor of that, and my personal view, after many years in the law enforcement community, is that one of the biggest bottle necks, colleagues, of all of our laws involving prosecutions of criminal activity is that bottle neck of the scientific analysis, the forensic sciences where we fail sometimes to get d.n.a. back, fail to get back fingerprint analysis, fail to
get back drug analysis, chemical analysis and all of this slows down and stops cases that should long since have been brought forward and disposed of. senator hatch: ok. i'd rather some democratic senators accuse you of opposing the violence against women's that caught my attention, because like i did you voted to , re-authorize it. as i recall in 2013, there were not one but two bills to re-authorize vawa, the violence against women act. one had controversial opinions -- controversial provisions that had never been received in a hearing. the other did not. am i right that you supported re-authorizing the violence against women act? senator sessions: absolutely. i supported it in 2000 when it passed. i supported it in 2005 when the bill, both of those bills i supported became law. and then in this cycle, senator grassley had a bill that i thought was preferable and i supported his bill that actually
had tougher penalties than the other bill and it is kind of frustrating to be accused of opposing vawa, the violence against women act, when i voted for it in the past. there were some specific add-on revision in the bill that caused my concern and i think other people's concern. senator hatch: mr. chairman, i ask consent to place in the record an op ed published in "usa today" on this subject by penny nance, president of concerned women for america, the nation's largest public policy women's organization, if you can? senator grassley: without objection, it will be included. senator hatch: i have a question about the justice department's civil rights division. the division enforces the religious land use and institutionalized persons act which protects the right of prison inmates that worship and protects churches and religious institutions from burdensome zoning and other restrictions. i introduced this legislation in 2000. it passed, without objection, in
both the senate and the house. i would note for the record that next monday, january 16, is religious freedom day. i hope that you will make the religious freedom of all americans a priority under your leadership. the civil rights division also has a unit dedicated to combating human trafficking. it was created in 2007, and one of my former judiciary committee counsels, grace becker, was its first head. perhaps you could comment on the significance of issues such as religious freedom and human trafficking and why it's important to include them within the civil rights agenda of the department. senator sessions: mr. chairman, religious freedom is a great heritage of america. we respect people's religion. we encourage them to express themselves and to develop their relationships with the higher power as they choose. we respect that. it's mandated in the constitution. but there are situations in
which i believe we can reach accommodations that would allow the religious beliefs of persons to be honored in some fashion as opposed to just dictating everything under a single provision or policy. so i believe you're correct. we should recognize religious freedom. it will be a very high priority of mine. senator hatch: mr. chairman, let me close by asking consent to place in the record letters from the national center for exploited children and the boys and girls clubs of america. they work on behalf of vulnerable children and i ask record,to place in the a letter of support of this nomination from nearly two dozen men and women who served as assistant attorneys general in 10 different offices and divisions. they say as both u.s. senator and u.s. attorney, quote,
senator sessions has demonstrated a commitment to the rule of law and to the even-handed administration of justice. i could not agree more. senator grassley: without objection, those will be included. senator leahy: thank you, mr. chairman. welcome, senator sessions and mrs. sessions. you were asked about violence against women act and your support. let's deal with the facts. let's deal with what was actually voted on. let's deal with the violence against women act that you voted against. you strongly oppose the violence against women re-authorization act of 2013. spoke against it. you voted against it. that law extended protections for some of the most vulnerable groups of domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. students, immigrants, lgbtq
victims and those on tribal lands. now, the justice department, by all accounts, has done an excellent job implementing and enforcing it for the last three years. i believe -- we were both prosecutors. i went to a lot of domestic violence scenes, crime scenes as a young prosecutor. i believe that all victims of domestic and sexual violence deserve protection. why did you vote against expanding protections for lgbt victims, students, immigrants and tribal victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, why did you vote no? senator sessions: mr. chairman, i did indeed support the bill in 2000 and in -- senator leahy: i am talking about the bill that is the law today. senator sessions: i understand. senator leahy: that was passed in 2013 by an overwhelming margin in the senate and by an
overwhelming margin in the republican-controlled house signed into law by president obama, i'm asking about that, why did you oppose it? senator sessions: mr. chairman, a number of people opposed the -- some of the provisions in that bill. not the entire bill. senator leahy: i'm just asking about you. senator sessions: i'm trying to answer. senator leahy: go ahead. senator sessions: eight of the nine republicans voted against the bill. one of the more concerning provisions was a provision that gave tribal courts jurisdiction to try persons who are not tribal members. as contrary, i believe, the only time that's ever happened. that was a big concern that i raised, i believe, primarily on the legislation. so i voted with the chairman and the legislation he had that i thought did the job for protecting women to re-authorize the violence against women act
but at the same time did not have other things attached to it that i thought were concerning. senator leahy: well, on the tribal courts, those have now been prosecuted very carefully. defendants received due process rights. they have to. none of the non-indian defendants have been appealed to federal courts. many feel have made those on tribal lands safer. do you agree with the way the justice department has handled such cases? senator sessions: mr. chairman, i do believe that the law has been passed by congress. i'm interested to see how it plays out in the real world. i will do my best to make my judgment about how to enforce that as attorney general. senator leahy: well -- senator sessions: the law itself has many powerful provisions that i'm glad was passed and
that is in law and provides protections to women as victims against -- victims of violence. senator leahy: on the tribal lands, it's been used and prosecuted for the three years. do you feel it's been handled correctly? senator sessions: mr. chairman, i have no understanding of that, but in -- the results of it so far. let me say this to you directly. in meeting with senators prior to this hearing, i've had quite a number, perhaps more than any other issue that i learned a lot about and that is that non-indians that have been going on to tribal lands and committing crimes, including rape, have not been effectively prosecuted. now, under current law and historically, they would have been prosecuted in the federal government by the united states attorneys and that has not been happening sufficiently. i am not convinced. so i am now convinced. so i do think the f.b.i., maybe
the bureau of indian affairs investigators should be beefed up and u.s. attorneys need to do a better job prosecuting cases that need to be prosecuted in federal court. senator leahy: those are facts that came out pretty clearly in the hearings before you voted against that provision. that is why senator crapo and i and others included it in the bill. but let me -- there may be -- there have not been -- nobody's appealed this, nobody's objected to it but would you be able to, if somebody does, would you be able to defend it in court? senator sessions: i would defend the statute if it's reasonably defensible. yes, it's passed by congress. it would be the duty of the attorney general, whether they voted for it or supported it, to defend it. did i call you mr. chairman, mr. chairman, a while ago? you've been my chairman many
years. senator leahy: i spent 20 years back and forth on this. i'm delighted to turn it over to senator feinstein and senator grassley. senator sessions: you will be handling all of the money of the united states, i understand, in your new position. senator leahy: i'll -- in 2009, i offered the matthew shepherd and james byrd hate crimes prevention act as an amendment to the defense bill. it extended the hate crimes protections to lgbt individuals, women and individuals with disabilities. it passed the senate overwhelmingly. you opposed it. you stated at a hearing that you're not sure women or people of different sexual orientations face that kind of discrimination. and then you said, i just don't see it.
do you still believe that women and lgbt individuals do not face the kind of discrimination that the hate crimes legislation was passed to prevent? senator sessions: mr. chairman, senator leahy, having discussed that issue at some length, that does not sound like something i said or intended to say. senator leahy: you did say it. senator sessions: well, i understand. i've seen things taken out of context and not give an accurate picture. my view is and was a concern that it appeared that these cases were being prosecuted effectively in state courts where they would normally be expected to be prosecuted. i asked attorney general holder to list cases that he had that indicated they were not being properly prosecuted. i noted that mr. byrd was given the death penalty in texas for his offense, and mr. shepherd,
there were two life sentences imposed as a result of the situation in his state. so the question simply was, do we have a problem that requires an expansion of federal law to an area that the federal government has not been historically involved? senator hatch had a proposal that we do a study to see the extent of the problem and that we should have evidence of that recognizes a lack of willingness to prosecute before this law. senator leahy: the f.b.i. said the lgbt individuals weren't likely to be targeted for hate crimes than any other minority group in the country. we can study this forever. that's a pretty strong fact. senator sessions: well, i will tell you, senator --
senator leahy: in 2010, you stated expanding hate crime protections to lgbt individuals was unwarranted, possibly unconstitutional. you said the bill has been said to cheapen the civil rights movement, especially considering what the f.b.i.'s found, do you still feel that way? senator sessions: mr. chairman, the law has been passed. the congress has spoken. you can be sure i will enforce it. senator leahy: thank you. when you were -- well, let me -- i don't want to go as much over time as senator hatch did but i'll ask you one question. the president-elect has repeatedly asserted his intention to institute a ban on muslim immigrants to the united
states. december, 2015, you voted against a resolution that i offered in this committee that expressed the sense of the senate that the united states must not bar individuals from entering into the united states based on their religion. all democrats, most republicans, including the chairman, supported my resolution. do you agree with the president-elect that the united states can or should deny entry from members of a particular religion, based on their religion? we do background checks for terrorism. but based on their religion, do you agree with the president-elect that the united states can or should deny entry to all members of a particular religion? senator sessions: senator leahy, i believe the president-elect subsequent to that statement made clear he believes the focus should be on individuals coming from countries that have history of terrorism and he's also indicated that his policy and what he suggests is strong
vetting of people from those countries before they are admitted to the united states. senator leahy: why did you vote against the resolution? senator sessions: mr. -- i almost called you mr. chairman again. senator leahy, my view and concern was in the resolution it was suggesting that you could not seriously consider a person's religious views even and often, sometimes, at least not in a majority, but many people do have religious views that are not for the public safety of the united states. i did not want to have a resolution that suggested that that could not be a factor in the vetting process before someone is admitted. but i have no belief and do not support the idea that muslims as a religious group should be denied admission to the united states. we have great muslim citizens who have contributed in so many different ways. and america, as i said in my
remarks at the occasion that we discussed it in committee, are great believers in religious freedom and the right of people to exercise their religious beliefs. senator leahy: thank you. senator grassley: before i turn -- without objection, your inserts will be included. i have a letter from ted olson in support of senator sessions quoting in part, with respect to civil rights, he says, quote, as a lawyer who has devoted years of effort to litigating and vindicating the civil rights of our fellow gay, lesbian and transgendered citizens, i recognize that people of good faith can disagree on legal issues. such honest disagreements should not disqualify them from holding public office. in particular, i have no reservations about senator sessions' ability to handle these issues fairly in
accordance with the law and to protect the civil rights of these and all of our citizens. i'd like to include that in the record, without objection. senator graham. senator graham: thank you, mr. chairman. we're about to get an answer to the age old question -- can you be confirmed attorney general of the united states over the objection of 1,400 law professors? [laughter] i don't know what the betting line in vegas is but i like your chances. speaking of football -- [laughter] i want to congratulate the university of alabama for one heck of a streak. one of the most dominant football teams in the history of college football, and i want to acknowledge the clemson tigers. i live five miles from the stadium. that was the finest college football game i think i've ever seen. dabo swinney and the tigers
represent everything good about college athletics. and while we were on different teams early this morning, i want to let the good people of alabama know that in terms of their senator jeff sessions, he's a fine man, an outstanding fellow who i often disagree with. i've traveled the world with. i've got to know him and his family, and i will enthusiastically support you as the next attorney general of the united states. now, let's talk about issues. some people believe that the only way you can get justice in this world is for the federal government to administer it. have you heard such thoughts? senator sessions: yeah. i think i know what you're talking about. senator graham: for the federal government to take over a -- take over an area of law, there should be a good reason. if a state is not prosecuting
crimes based on their sex, their race, whatever reason, then it's proper for the federal government to come in and advise -- provide justice, do you agree with that? senator sessions: i do. senator graham: when the states are doing their job, the federal government should let the states do their job. senator sessions: that is correct. that is not a general federal crime -- federal statute that federalizes all crime in america. senator graham: people are listening, that's just the way we think. you may not agree with it but we think that way. i think we really got a good reason to think that way. i think that's the way they set up the whole system. muslims -- as you know, me and the president-elect have had our differences about religious tests. would you support a law that says you can't come to america because you're a muslim? senator sessions: no. senator graham: would you support a law that says that if you're a muslim, you say you're a muslim and when we ask you what does that mean to you,
well, that means i got to kill everybody that's different from me, it's ok to say they can't come? senator sessions: i think that would be a prudent decision. senator graham: i hope we can keep people out of the country who want to kill everybody because of their religion, i hope everyone is smart enough to understand that is not what every muslim believes. senator sessions: it could be the religion of that person. senator graham: that's the point we are trying to make. the wire act, what's your view of the obama administration's interpretation of the wire act to allow online video poker or poker gambling? senator sessions: senator graham, i was shocked at the memorandum, i guess the enforcement memorandum that the department of justice issued with regard to the wire act and criticized it. apparently there is some justification, argument that can be made to support the department of justice's position, but i did oppose it when it happened. it seemed to me to be an unusual
-- senator graham: would you revisit it? senator sessions: i would revisit it and i would make a decision about it based on careful study rather than -- and i haven't reached -- gone that far to give you an opinion today. senator graham: immigration -- you said the executive order of president obama you believe is unconstitutional, the daca law, do you still have that position? senator sessions: i did for a number of reasons. senator graham: i'm not -- i agree with you. now we got 800,000 people that have come out of the shadows that have been signed up. will you advise the next president, president trump to repeal that executive order? senator sessions: that will be a decision that needs to be studied and he will need to agree to. but it's an executive order, really, a memorandum of the department of homeland security. it would certainly be
constitutional, i believe, to end that order and i would -- the department of justice i think would have no objection to have a decision to ban that order because it is very questionable, in my opinion, constitutionally. senator graham: once we repeal it -- and i believe that it's an overreach -- what do we do with the 800,000 kids that have come out of the shadows? senator sessions: senator graham, fundamentally we need to fix this immigration system. colleagues, it's not been working right. we've entered more and more millions of people illegally into the country, each one of them produces some sort of humanitarian concern but it is particularly true for children. so we've been placed in a bad situation. i really would urge us all to work together. i would try to be supportive. senator graham: would you prefer -- senator sessions: put us in position where we can wrestle with how we deal with these difficult, compassionate decisions.
senator graham: and the best way to do that is for the congress and administration to work together to pass a law, not an executive order. senator sessions: exactly. senator graham: ok. when it comes to the law of war, do you believe that people who join al qaeda or affiliated groups are subject to being captured or killed under the law of war? senator sessions: i do, senator. i don't see how we can see it otherwise. and it's a responsibility of the military to protect the united states from people who attack us. senator graham: do you believe the threats of the homeland are growing or lessening? senator sessions: i believe they are growing, and we're seeing that now in europe and we're also seeing it right here in america. senator graham: do you support the continuation of gitmo as a confinement facility for foreign terrorists? senator sessions: senator graham, i think it's designed for that purpose. it fits that purpose marvelously well. it's a safe place to keep prisoners. we've invested a lot of money in that, and i believe it could be
-- it should be utilized in that fashion and have opposed the closing of it but as attorney general -- >> no. senator graham: i just wanted to see if they were still listening. >> no. [inaudible] [indiscernible] senator graham: i think they are on the fence about gitmo but i'm not sure. let me tell you, i support this
administration's effort to make sure we prosecute terrorism as a military action, not a law enforcement action. they're not trying to steal our cars or rob their bank account. they are trying to destroy our way of life and i hope you will go after them without apology to uphold the law and the law is the law of war, not domestic criminal law. you'll have a friend in senator graham if you intend to do that. cyberattacks -- do you think the russians were behind hacking into our election? senator sessions: i have done no research into law. i know just what the media says about it. senator graham: do you think you could get briefed anytime soon? senator sessions: well, i need to. senator graham: i think you do too. do you like the f.b.i.? senator sessions: do i like them? senator graham: yes. senator sessions: some of my friends are f.b.i. agents. senator graham: do you generally trust them? senator sessions: yes. senator graham: they said the russian intelligence said they
-- are your rid of the fbi concluded that it was russian intelligence services that hacked into the dns -- into the dnc? senator sessions: i have not been briefed by them on the subject. senator graham: from your point of view, there's no reason for us to be suspicious of them? senator sessions: of their decision? i'm sure it was honorably reached. senator graham: how do you feel about a foreign entity trying to interfere in our election? i'm not saying they changed the outcome but it's pretty clear to me they did. how do you feel about it and what should we do? senator sessions: senator graham, i think it's a significant event. we have had penetration throughout our government by foreign entities. we know the chinese revealed millions of background information on millions of people in the united states, and these, i suppose, ultimately are part of international big power politics. but when a nation uses their improperly gained or
intelligence-wise gained information to take policy positions that impacts another nation's democracy or their approach to any issue, then that raises real serious matters. it's really i suppose goes in many ways to the state department, our defense department and how we as a nation have to react to that. senator graham: which would include developing some protocols where when people breach our systems and a price is paid even if we can't prove the exact person who did it. i got 20 seconds left. i've known you i guess for about 15 years now. we've had a lot of contests on the floor and sometimes we agree, sometimes we don't. i'm from south carolina so i know what it's like sometimes to be accused of being a conservative from the south. that means something other than
you're a conservative from the south, in your case. in your case people have fairly promptly labeled you as a racist ot, or it, or -- big whatever you want to say. how does that make you feel? and this is your chance to say something to those people. senator sessions: well, it does not feel good. >> needs to be stopped before it starts. [indiscernible] senator graham: if nothing else, i'm clearing the room for you. [laughter] and i would suggest that the freedom of speech also has some courtesy to listen. so what's your answer? senator sessions: senator graham, i appreciate the
question. you have a southern name, you come from south alabama, that sounds worse to some people. south alabama. when i came up as a united states attorney, i had no real support group. i didn't prepare myself well in 1986, and there was an organized effort to caricature me as something that wasn't. it is true, it was painful. i didn't know how to respond and didn't respond very well. i hope my tenure in this body has shown you that the caricature that was created of me was not accurate. it wasn't accurate then and it's not accurate now. and i just want you to know that as a southerner who actually saw discrimination and have no doubt it existed in a systematic and powerful and negative way to the people -- great millions of people in the south,
particularly, of our country, i know that was wrong. i know we need to do better. we can never go back. i am totally committed to maintaining the freedom and equality that this country has to provide to every citizen and i will assure you that that's how i will approach it. senator grassley: senator durbin. senator durbin: thank you, mr. chairman. senator sessions, let me first say i'm glad that you brought your family with you today. it's a beautiful family with your wife and your son and daughters and those four beautiful little granddaughters. you kept them as quiet as you could for as long as you could. so thank you very much for being here. it's great moral support and part of your effort here today. when you came by my office last week, i talked to you about a man named alton mills and with the permission of the chair, i'd like to -- he's my guest today.
i'd ask mr. mills to please stand up. alton, thank you for being here today. i'd like to tell you a story so you can understand my question a little bit later. when alton mills was 22 years old, unemployed, he made a bad decision. he started selling crack cocaine on the streets of chicago. he was arrested twice for small amounts of crack cocaine. the third time he was arrested, the kingpins who had employed him turned on him and as a consequence he ended up being prosecuted under the three strikes and you're out law. at the age of 22 -- pardon me, at the age of 24, he was sentenced to life without parole. he had never been in prison before, and as i mentioned, there were no allegations made against him other than possession and sale. no violence. no guns. nothing of that nature. alton mills ended up, despite the sentencing judge's admonition that he believed this
was fundamentally unfair and his hands were tied, alton mills ended up spending 22 years in federal prison until december, 2015, when president obama commuted his sentence. he was finally able to go home to his family. senator sessions, seven years ago you and i co-sponsored a bill known as the fair sentencing act which senator collins referenced earlier and that reduced the brutal sentencing disparity for crack cocaine crimes over powder cocaine. it was originally 100-1. we agreed in the senate, i might add, to bring it 18-1. inmates, overwhelmingly african-american, were spared thousands of prison years because of our joint effort to end this injustice. yet, when i asked you to join me in appealing to the sentence commission to follow our law, and when i asked you to join senator grassley and me in
permitting the almost 5,000 still serving under this unfair 100-1 standard to petition individually for leniency you you refused. and you said a president obama's pardoning of people like alton mills and that quote, "president obama continues to abuse executive power in an unprecedented reckless manner to systematically release high-level drug traffickers and firearms felons. so-called low-level nonviolent nonviolent offenders simply do not exist in the federal system.". alton mills and many more just like him doexist so if you refuse to even acknowledge the fundamental injustice of many of our sentencing laws, why should you be entrusted with the most importantcriminal prosecution office in america? sen. sessions: senator durbin, i think that's rather unfair based on our relationship and how we have worked together.
in 2001, i introduced legislation very similar to the bill you and i successfully made law. it would reduce it to 20-1, our bill went to 18-1, a little better. but fundamentally i was criticized by the department of justice. my legislation was opposed by them. it was 7 years later or so or really longer before our bill ever passed. i stepped out against my own republican administration said on the floor of the senate that i believe the crack-cocaine laws were too harsh and particularly it was disadvantageous to the african-american community where most of the punishments were falling. it's not fair and we have to fix it. so i have to say i took a strong stand on that and i did not agree, you and i did not agree on the retroactivity because a
lot of these were plea-bargain cases and may not have been totally driven by the mandatory minimums. so i thought the court had , basically now agreed that it is retroactive. i don't know what group is not covered by it but a large group was covered by a court decision. you and i discussed it. sen. burbin: on the issue of fairness i will acknowledge you step out on this issue. and you and i both went against brutal injustice 100-1 and we agreed on 18-1. that's how laws are made. and now we have 5000 prisoners sitting in federal prison, still there under this brutal and just -- and unjust 100-1 and all i have asked in all senator grassley has asked, allow them as individuals to petition to the judge, to the prosecutor, to the department of justice so that their sentences can be considered. that is something you have
opposed. so in fairness tell me why you still oppose it. sen. sessions: first i would tell you with absolute certainty that if the decision of this body, not the attorney general's decision about when and where a mandatory minimum is imposed and whether it can be retroactively altered. i will follow any law that you have passed, number one. number two, i understood the sincere belief you had on that issue and it was a difficult call. that's why we really never worked it out. i understand what you are saying , but i did believe that you are upsetting finality in the justice system, that you are suggesting that these kinds of factors were not considered when the plea bargaining went down. it is an honorable debate to have and i respect your decision -- position on it.
sen. burbin: senator, you have been outspoken on another issue and i would like to address it if i could. i have invited sergeant vasquez and if he would be kind enough to stand up and be recognized. sergeant, thank you for being here. i will tell you his incredible story in short form. brought to the united states as a child in high school he and 3 , other dreamer started a robotics club and a college robotics level competition made a movie of the story. he graduated from arizona state university with an engineering degree. the obama administration granted him a waiver and allowed him to become a citizen and enlist in the united states army where he served in combat in afghanistan. senator sessions, since joining the senate in 1997 you have voted against every immigration bill that included a path to citizenship for the undocumented. you describe the d.r.e.a.m. act i introduced 15 years ago to spare children who are undocumented through no fault of
their own is quote "a reckless proposal for mass amnesty." you oppose the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill was passed the senate four years ago. you have objected to emigrants volunteering to serve in our armed forces saying quote, "in terms of who is going to most likely to spy somebody from coleman, alabama or somebody from kenya?" when i asked what you would do to address the almost 800,000 dreamers like oscar vasquez who will be subject to deportation if president obama's executive orders repealed, you said quote, "i believe in following the law. there is too much focus on people who are here illegally and not enough on the law." senator sessions, there is not a spot of evidence in your public career to suggest as attorney attorney general you would use the authority in that office to resolve the challenges of our broken immigration system and a fair and humane manner. tell me i'm wrong. sen. sessions: well, you are wrong, senator durbin.
i'm going to follow laws passed by congress. as a man of policy we have disagreed on some of those issues. i do believe that if you continually go through a amnesty you undermine the respect for the law and encourage more illegal immigration into america . i believe the american people spoke clearly in this election. i believe they agreed with my basic view and i think it's a good view, a decent view of solid legal view for the united states of america. that we create a lawful system of immigration to allow people to apply to this country and if they are accepted, they get in and if they aren't except that they don't get in and i believe that is right, just and the american people asked for it. we have not deliver that for them. grahamrbin: senator asked this question and i listened to your answer when we asked what would happen to those 800,000 currently protected by
president obama's executive order known as daca who cannot be deported for two years, it's renewable, and can work for two years and you said that congress -- let congress pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. you oppose the only bipartisan effort we have had on the senate floor in modern memory. and what's going to happen to those 800,000 if you revoke that order and they are subject to deportation tomorrow? what is going to happen to them? what is the humane, legal answer to that? sen. sessions: the first thing i would say is that my response to senator graham dealt with whose responsibility this is. i had a responsibility as a member of this body and i voted the way believe was correct on dealing with issues of immigration. that's not the attorney general's role. the attorney general's role is to enforce the law, and as you know senator durbin and we are not able financially or in any other way to seek out and remove
everybody that's in the country illegally. president trump indicated by -- like president obama indicated certainly the top group of people. so i would think the best thing for us to do, and i would urge that we understand this, let's fix the system and then we can work together after this lawlessness has ended and then we can ask the american people and enter into a dialogue about how to compassionately treat people who have been here a long time. sen. burbin: that does not answer the question about the 800,000 that would be left in the lurch, whose lives would be ruined while waiting on congress for a bill that you oppose. sen. sessions: well i thought i did answer it pretty closely what you asked and i understand your concerns. sen. grassley: senator corker. >> senator sessions, congratulations toyou and your family on this
once-in-a-lifetime honor to serve as the head of the department of justice. sitting here listening to the questions and some of the comments that have been made both by the protesters and others that strikes me that many people have been surprised to learn more about your record, your outstanding record as a prosecutor is somebody who treated that responsibility to uphold and enforce the law of the constitution without fear. i think some people here listening today have been somewhat surprised by your record in complete context. those of us who have served with you in the senate, some as many 20 years like senator shelby and senator collins, testified to your character. but i like to think that those who have served with you in the senate particularly on the , judiciary committee know more about you than just your record and your character.
we know your heart. we know what kind of person you are. you are a good and decent and honorable man. you have got an outstanding record that you should be proud of, and i know you are and you should be. for example when somebody says they you unfairly prosecuted some african-americans for voter fraud in alabama, it strikes me as incomplete as the most charitable thing i can say when they leave out the fact that the very complaintants in that case were also african-americans. in other words the people you prosecuted were african-americans but the people who slow things right you are trying to vindicate were african-americans, isn't that correct? sen. sessions: that is correct. sen. cornyn: does that strike you as a fair characterization of your approach toward
enforcing the law that people would leave the important factor out? sen. sessions: it is not senator. it's been out there for a long time. if you asked people to casually follow the news, they probably saw it otherwise. these were good people who asked me to get involved in this case in 2002 and a majority african-american grand jury with african-american foreman asked the federal government to investigate the 1982 election. i declined. i hope that investigation would stop the problem, but two years later the same thing was happening again. we had african-american incumbent officials pleading with us to take some action. we approach the department of justice. the public integrity voting section. they approved an investigation and a developed into a legitimate case involving
charges of vote fraud, taking absentee ballots from voters opening them up and changing their votes and casting them for somebody they did not intend to vote to be cast for. it was a voting rights case and i just feel like we tried to conduct ourselves in the right way. i never got and the argument of race or other matters. i just tried to defend myself as best i could. i would note that colleagues in the last few days, the son of albert jonah has written a letter and said i was just doing said he understood the reason for the justification of prosecution and that i would be a good attorney general. that was gratifying to me and that's the real truth of the matter. sen. cornyn: senator sessions, i know the nature of these confirmation hearings is that people pick out issues that they are concerned about or where there may be some disagreement on policy and that's what they focus on.
but let me just ask you -- maybe it's not a great analogy but let me try. you have been married to your wife mary from most 50 years, sen. sessions: is not 50 yet. 47. let it continue. i have been blessed. sen. cornyn: are there occasions when you and your wife disagree? sen. sessions: no, senator. [laughter] sen. sessions: wait a minute, i am under oath. on occasion we do, yes. sen. cornyn: do you think it would be fair to characterize the nature of your relationship with your wife based upon those handful of disagreements that you have had with her over time? sen. sessions: that is a good point. thank you for making it. no, i don't. sen. cornyn: to your original point, your wife is always right. sen. sessions: that is correct. sen. cornyn: you are under oath. this is the nature of these confirmation hearings. people are identifying specific issues where there are policy differences, but my point is
that does not characterize your entire record of 20 years in the united states senate or how you have conducted yourself as a prosecutor representing the united states government in our article iii courts. let me get to a specific issue. a couple in the time i have remaining. i was really pleased to hear you say in your opening statement that many in law enforcement field our political leaders have on occasion abandoned them. you said police ought to be held accountable. but do you believe it is ever under any circumstance appropriate for someone to assault a police officer for example? sen. sessions: there is no defense for that kind of action and i do believe that we are failing to appreciate police
officers who place their lives at risk, as the sergeant that was just killed yesterday trying to deal with a violent criminal and vindicate the law and she was killed. that is the kind of thing that too often happens. we need to be sure that when we criticize law officers it is narrowly and focused on the right basis for criticism, and itsmear whole departments, places officers at greater risk and we are seeing an increase in the murder of police officers. up 10% last year. i can feel in my bones how it's was going to play out in the real world when we had what i thought oftentimes was legitimate criticism of perhaps wrongdoing by an officer, but spilling over to condemnation of
our entire police force. morale has been affected and the -- it has impacted the crime rates in baltimore and crime rates in chicago, i don't think there's any doubt about it. i regret that is happening. i think it can be restored but we need to understand the requirement that the lease work -- police work with the community and be respectful of their community but we as a nation need to respect our law officers too. sen. cornyn: i for one appreciate your comments because we ought to hold our police on law enforcement officers in high regard to which they deserve a that based on their service to the community. your comments remind me to some extent of david brown's comments, the dallas police chief following the tragic killing of five dallas police officers recently where he said police ought to be held accountable, but under no circumstances could any assault against a police officer be justified based on what somebody else did somewhere at sometime . so i for one appreciate that
very much. you mentioned baltimore and chicago. we have seen an incredible number of people frequently in minority communities who have been killed as a result of crimes related to felons who perhaps are in possession of guns that they have no legal right to be in possession of. earlier you talked about prosecuting gun crimes and i'm glad to hear you say that. project exile which originated in richmond, virginia, which targeted felons and other people who cannot eataly on our process firearms was enormously effective. when i looked at the record of the last 5 or 10 years at the justice department, prosecution of those kinds of crimes down 15.5% in the last 5 years, down 34.8% in the last 10 years. can you assure us that you will make prosecuting those people
who cannot legally possess or use firearms a priority again in the department of justice to help break the back of this crime wave that is affecting so many people in our local communities like chicago or baltimore, and particularly minority communities? sen. sessions: ican, senator cornyn. i'm familiar with how that plays out in the row world. my best judgment is that enforcing federal gun laws can reduce crime and violence in our cities and communities. it was highlighted in richmond and project exile but i have to , tell you i have always believed that. when i was a united states attorney in the 1980's and into the early 1990's we had, we produced a newsletter that went out to all local law enforcement and it highlighted the progress that was being made by prosecuting criminals who use guns to carry out their crimes.
criminals are most likely the kind of person that would shoot somebody when they go about their business. if those people are not carrying guns because they believe they might go to federal court and be sent to a federal jail for 5 years, perhaps they will stop carrying those guns during their drug dealing and other activities that are criminal. fewer people get killed. fewer people get killed. so i truly believe that we need to step that up. to compassionate thing. if one of these individuals carrying a gun shoots somebody not only are they a victim but , they end up with a hammering sentences in jail for indeterminable periods. the communities are safer with fewer guns in the hands of criminals. sen. grassley: before we go to senator whitehouse people have asked, members of asked me about a break and if it's ok with senator sessions, it would work
out about 1:00. if we have three on this side and three on this side, one hour because it is in right now. is that ok with you, senator sessions? sen. sessions: mr. chairman i'm , at your disposal. sen. grassley: this will give people the ability to go to respective party caucuses. we will take a recess of about 30 to 40 minutes. thank you, senator. senator whitehouse? sen. whitehouse: senator sessions, hello. when we met i told you i would ask you a particular questions i'm going to lead off of that particular question. following the gonzalez scandals at the department of justice the department adopted procedures governing communications between the white house and the department of justice consistent with constraints that were outlined years ago in
correspondence between senator hatch and the reno justice department limiting contact between a very small number of officials at the white house and a very small number of officials at the department of justice. will you honor and maintain those procedures at the department of justice? sen. sessions: i will, senator whitehouse. you as an honorable u.s. district attorney yourself you understand why that works and why it is important. attorney general mukasey issued pending and i , would say to you that is the appropriate way to do it. after you and i talked to read the reno memorandum and i think i would maintain those rules. sen. whitehouse: on the subject of honorable prosecutions, when is it appropriate for a prosecutor to disclose derogatory investigative
information about a subject who who was not charged? sen. sessions: that's a very dangerous thing. it's a pretty broad question as you are asking it, but you need to be very careful about that. there are certain rules like grand jury rules that are very significant. sen. whitehouse: is it also true that because of customary practice because of the concern about the improper release of derogatory investigative information that the department customarily limits its factual assertions even after an individual has been charged to the facts that were charged in the information or the indictment? sen. sessions: i believe that is correct, yes. it's a standard operating policy in most offices and there may be some exceptions but i think that's standard operating procedure in united states attorney's office.
sen. whitehouse: as a question of law, does waterboarding constitutes torture? sen. sessions: there is a dispute about that when we have the torture definitions in our law. the department of justice memorandum concluded it did not necessarily prohibit that , but congress has taken action now now that makes it absolutely improper and illegal to use waterboarding or any other form of torture in the united states by our military and by all of our departments and agencies. sen. whitehouse: consistent with the wishes of the united states sen. sessions: -- united states military. sen. sessions: they have been supportive of that and the fact i will take a moment to defend the military. sen. whitehouse: you don't need to do that for me. i'm all for a our military. sen. sessions: most people truly believe that the military conduct did waterboarding, they never conducted any waterboarding.
that was by intelligence agencies. their rules were maintained. i used to teach the rules of war. the military did not do that. sen. whitehouse: general petraeus sent a military-wide letter disavowing the value of torture as we both know. another question as a matter of law. it is fraudulent -- is fraudulent speech protected by the first amendment? sen. sessions: fraudulent speech, if it amounts to an attempt to obtain a thing of value for the person the fraudulent speech is directed to, absolutely fraud and can be prosecuted and i think we see too much of that. we see these phone calls at night to elderly people. we see mailings go out and seemed to be awfully far from the truth. and seducing people to probably make unwise decisions. sen. whitehouse: so fraudulent corporate speech would also not be protected by the first
amendment? sen. sessions: that is correct. it is subject to civil and/or criminal complaint. sen. whitehouse: speaking of civil complaints, was the department of justice wrong when it brought and won civil rico action against the tobacco industry? sen. sessions: senator they won , those cases. they took them to court and eventually won a monumental victory. that is correct. it was firmly established. sen. whitehouse: hard to say they were wrong if they weren't, right? sen. sessions: that's correct. sen. whitehouse: as you know, the united states has retaliated against russia for its interference with the 2016 elections. in europe, baltic states, germany and italy have raised concerns of russia meddling in their country's elections. i know this has been touched on before but i want to make sure it's clear. will the department of justice and the fbi under york -- your administration be
allowed to continue to investigate the russian connection even if it leads to , the trump campaign and trump interests and associates and can you assure us that any conflict between the political interests of the president and the interest of justice, you will follow the interest of justice, even if your duties require the investigation and prosecution of the president, his family and associates? sen. sessions: senator whitehouse, if the laws violated and they can be prosecuted then of course you have to handle that and an appropriate way. i would say the problem may turn out to be, as in the chinese hacking of hundreds of thousands maybe millions of records has to be handled at the political level. i do think it's appropriate for our nation who feels that they been hacked and that information
has been improperly used to retaliate against those actions. sen. whitehouse: i know we share a common interest in advancing the cyber security of this nation and i continue to work with you on that. let me ask you a factual question. during the course of this boisterous political campaign did you ever chant, "lock her up?" sen. sessions: no, i did not. i don't think. i heard it in rallies and so forth. sometimes it was humorously done but it was a matter that i have , said a few things. a special prosecutor, i favored that. i think probably it's one of the reasons i believe i should not make any decision about any such case. sen. whitehouse: and you understand the good guy law man in the movie is the one who sits at the jail is poor to develop
does not let the mob go. sen. sessions: exactly. sen. whitehouse: i'm from rhode island as you know senator. we have aclu members who have heard you call, heard you call their organizations on american. we have a vibrant dominican committee community who look at david ortiz swinging his bat for the red sox and wonder why you said quote "almost no one coming from the dominican republic to the united states is coming here because they have a skill that would benefit us." i represent a lot of latinos who worry about modern-day palmer raids breaking up parents from , their kids and muslims who worry about so-called patrols of muslim homes and neighborhoods and i've heard from police , chiefs who worry that u.s. -- u.s. the attorney general would disrupt law enforcement priorities that they have set out and disrupt the community relations that they have worked hard over years of come in teen
-- of community engagement to achieve. time is short but i noticed in your prepared remarks these are not unforeseeable concerns and your prepared remarks do little to allay the concerns of those people. if there's anything you would like to add an or closing moments? sen. sessions: thank you. my comment about the naacp arose from a discussion i had or i expressed concern about their statements that were favoring as as i saw it sandinista efforts, communist rule efforts in central america. so i said they could be perceived as un-american and weakened their moral authority to achieve the great things they had accomplished in immigration -- integration and moving
forward for reconciliation throughout the country and i believe that clearly and i never said and accused them of that. sen. whitehouse: with regard to the naacp in rhode island what would you say? sen. sessions: i would say please look at what i said about that and how that came about. it was not in that context. it was not correct. i said in 1986 that the naacpit. naacp in 1986 that the represents one of the greatest fork is for reconciliation and racial advancement in any other entity in the country. i said it then, and i believe it, and i believe it now. this organization has done tremendous good. with regard to the dominican have been through the dominican republic with senator specter. public service housing projects that seem to be
working and other things of that nature. some time with the consular official there. what i learned was that there is a good bit of fraud in it, and he was somewhat discouraged in his ability to do his job. we also understood and discussed that immigration flow is not on a basis of skills. is based onflow family connections and other skill-basedr than a program like canada has. that is all i intended in saying that. statementt heard that , please do not see it as a diminishment or criticism of the people of the dominican republic. discuss, in to just my remarks, the reality of our immigration system today. i would like it to be more
skill-based. >> mr. chairman, my time has expired. >> before i go to senator lee, there is an evaluation of the work of during this time as u.s. attorney that i think spinks -- speaks to his outstanding record. i note that there are just a few points in their evaluation back in 1992 -- a couple of short sentences. all members of the judiciary praised the u.s. attorney for -- hisort to see efforts, his skills in the office of u.s. attorney. of the southern district of alabama is an outstanding office. the district is representing the
united states in a most capable and professional manner. without objection, i will put that into the record. >> if we are putting things into letterord, then i have a from the u.s. environmental movement, and a letter from the national tax -- task force to end violence against women. >> those will be included without objection. >> on day two, representative cory booker and senator john voiced their objections to senator sessions becoming attorney general. this is just over 45 minutes. >> welcome to this panel. i